How to have self-control?

Practicing yoga for self-control.
What is self-control? Self-control can be defined as the exercising of control of our mental, emotional and physical powers in times of temptation or pressure when there is the greatest danger of acting in an unwise or selfish manner."

The value and need of self-control might be illustrated by a car. Its engine may have as little as 35 or as much as 400 horsepower.

But important as is the production of power by this engine, equally important is it being controlled, for of what value would a car be if you could not control the speed or the direction in which it traveled? It would be an instrument of death!

The problem of self-control arises because we are capable of using powers wrongly as well as rightly.

Even as the forces of nature can cause much harm if not restrained—as witnessed by tornadoes, hurricanes, tidal waves and lightning—so also with the mental, emotional and physical powers we have, if not controlled, they can cause much harm.

Lets mention a few of this harmful effects.

Effects of lack of self-control

A gun on the murder scene with blood stains.

Look where we will, in your neighborhood or in the pages of history, and we see the harmful results from a failure to exercise self-control on the part of men, women, and youths in particular. 

The shocking multiple murders reported in the newspapers and on the radio and TV are instances of persons failing to control a strong impulse to express hatred or frustration by murder.

Failure to exercise self-control accounts for the spread of lifestyle diseases, for the many unwanted pregnancies and not to forget about the widespread marital unhappiness, which results in separations, desertions and divorce.

And what is drunkenness but the result of a failure to exercise control of one’s craving for alcoholic beverages?

How often does a lack of self-control account for an auto accident as when a driver becomes irritated or lets his attention be diverted?

Time and again, research has established, accidents are caused by imprudent behavior on the part of “impulse-dominated personalities of drivers”—those lacking self-control.

The same even applies to one’s daily secular occupation. It may be quite interesting or challenging, or one may find it greatly rewarding because of the money earned or other benefits.

These factors may well cause one to become a compulsive worker, lacking in self-control. Such people often become victims of high blood pressure and suffer heart attacks.

Then again, many persons are unable to exercise self-control in the acquiring of material possessions. Easily influenced by the flattering talk of salespeople, they make unwise purchases and thus become beholden to creditors.

To avoid such harmful effects in your life you will need to have self-control on some important aspects of your life. Let us discuss the three major areas you need self-control.

Control your eating habits

A man holding a hot dog when others look on.

Doubtless the pleasure most widely and most often enjoyed by humans is that of eating. This pleasure might be said to be circumscribed by the principle that ‘we eat to live, we do not live to eat.’

For one thing, this principle should govern your eating, you will want to choose foods that not only please your palate but is also good for you.

You will also want to be careful not to starve yourself nor eat more than what is good for you.

Moreover, you should also watch your timing. It is known that heavy meals tend to interfere with concentration and highly skilled activity.

Even as a professional singer would not want to eat a hearty steak or a turkey dinner just before giving a concert, neither should you do so just before handling a difficult speech assignment.

In fact, a hearty meal can also interfere with you enjoying an oral presentation. 

Of course, people plagued with allergies or diabetes, or who are greatly overweight, have all the more reason to watch these principles of quality, quantity and timing when enjoying the pleasure of eating.

Control your pleasures

A man drinking two bottles of beer at the same time.

You may derive much pleasure from pursuing some hobby or form of entertainment. But here, too, you must exercise self-control and put first things first.

What if your pleasures is putting you in the bad company of people who are engaging in illegal activities or using harmful drugs?

Or what if your pleasures is too costly, injurious to your health or creating hardship on your family? If this is the case, would it not be appropriate to change to another form of pleasure?

Although duty and pleasure often clash, they do not necessarily need to do so. But when they do, which do you put first?

Duty is defined as ‘that which a person is bound by moral obligation to do or not to do, while pleasure is the ‘state of gratification; delight; enjoyment,’ a feeling of being pleased.

What will help you to sharpen your sense of duty and keep pleasures in their proper place? Reason will help.

Reason will make you realize that to the extent that you reneged in fulfilling your duties, to that extent you wrong and harm yourself and others.

Since you would not want other persons to harm you, you should avoid harming others with your passions.

Control your emotions

A young man making funny faces.

Many people believe that it basically is healthy to “let go” or to “let off steam.” 

Their view is reinforced by role models in the public eye who seem to ignore self-control of any sort, who simply indulge their impulses.

Many who like professional sports have grown accustomed to wild displays of emotion, even violent rage.

Can you not recall, at least from the press, instances where brutal fights or mob scenes erupted at sporting events?

Admittedly, it is not easy to control one’s emotions when one feels slighted, hurt, or treated with prejudice.

However, a step toward regaining control of your emotions is to make peace or resolve the cause for complaint, rather than letting animosities persist.

How often offenses are only of a small nature, and are solely due to thoughtlessness, a lack of tact or upbringing or a momentary excitement, and are without evil intent!

Therefore, you should not be small-minded when it comes to forgiving others, but, rather, be broad-minded and forgive offenses.

Thus the oncoming dark clouds in your personal relations will be quickly dispersed and the sun will shine again. No one of us is perfect.

We all have our imperfections and we are all thankful if others forgive us. But sadly, it is a fact that we usually see the imperfections in others much quicker than in ourselves.

Another quality that is of great help in assisting you exercising control on your emotions is humility. This is because one of the greatest obstacles to self-control is pride. 

The humble person, for one thing, is not easily offended and therefore is not so likely to be tempted to act without self-control.

The humble person is more likely to have patience when dealing with others, which makes for self-control.

It takes real self-control to keep your cool and to answer with mildness when others manifests rage (learn how to control your temper), but it is the only wise course, for it smooth’s out difficulties and makes for peaceful relations.

Conclusion

Lack of self-control can lead to many personal disasters. During that interval one may do irreparable damage to one's own life or to the lives of others.

Truly the value and need of self-control can hardly be overemphasized. With it you can rein in your thoughts, words and action, resulting in an healthy body, mind and good relations with others.

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